American patriot Thomas Paine once remarked "These are the times that try men's souls" and "I view things as they are without regard to place or person. My country is the world, and my religion to do good."
What might old Tom have to say about our times? Times such as humans have never experienced before. Some say we've sailed into the "perfect storm," others that Armageddon's arrived. Whatever you may call this intersection of climate change, inequality, poverty, political turmoil, religious fundamentalism and planetary degradation - the tasks ahead are far beyond revolutionary in nature. They demand change at an evolutionary level. Are we even up to it?
A later patriot, Eleanor Roosevelt, had this to say: "Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer. We must never let that happen here." Sorry, Eleanor, it's a bit late. From the Beltway to Brazil, Berlin to Budapest and Belgrade, wolves in populist clothing pose ever more dangerous threats to civil discourse and stability.
Hurricanes Maria and Michael were simply calling cards to the new normal, such as our West on fire and the East underwater. Yet we go on doing the same things - each time expecting a different result. Here we are with the power of the universe at our fingertips, lashed to a bow and arrow mentality. Einstein was right.
Each time the Republicans have wielded such complete power, disaster quickly followed. From the 1800s "Gilded Age" to the 1920s; right up to the '80s when Reagan began shifting our wealth upwards to those in least need of it. Supply Side Economics (trickle up) was a system King George would have reveled in. Our oligarchs and corporate titans certainly have.
How did this come about? Following the 2010 census GOP plotters, taking the opposition totally off-guard, crisscrossed the country with weird congressional districts (gerrymandering) to allow politicians to pick their constituents, rather than vice versa. Toss in a little roster and voting manipulation, and there you have it. The dream of a one-party, conservative system is well underway. But conserving what?
Certainly not the planet.
A nasty, political system gorged in greenbacks?
Creating one-third of the world's waste with four percent of its people?
The nation with the most of its citizens imprisoned?
An Electoral College from Civil War days partially dis-enfranchising minorities?
Socialism for the rich and greatest inequality of all the advanced nations?
Surely not this perpetual state of war?
The list goes on. Paine might well have pronounced the GOP fired. Fortunately, we can still provide the shining example of social justice the world once envied. Infrastructure repair and renewable resources alone can provide more living wages. However, unless warming can be brought under control, mighty Homo sapien may become just another failed species. So, please, remember next month, your today is on loan from your kids' and grandkids' futures. Treasure and spend it wisely.
William White is a resident of Fort Walton Beach.